Can a Christian Lose Salvation?

The other day, a brother sent me this link and asked if I had ever before addressed the topic in a blog post.  I replied that I hadn’t (at least so far as I can remember), but this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to do so! Continue reading

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Are You Heaven Bound?

Introduction:

  1. Read 1 Peter 1:3-5. How confident are you about receiving what Peter talks about in these verses?
  2. Paul was very confident about the path he was on, 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:6-8. He knew where he was going after this life!
  3. God wants us all to have that same level of confidence. See 1 John 5:13. God wants us to know if we are truly bound for heaven!
  4. How can we know which spiritual path we are really on?

The Lesson:

  1. Faulty Standards
    1. Personal feelings.
      1. Before Paul became a disciple, he was so zealous about his Jewish faith that he persecuted Christians, Acts 26:9-11. He really thought that he was pleasing God in his actions.
      2. But he was wrong! His personal feelings about how he stood before God was not in line with the truth.
    2. Listening to preachers.
      1. I personally wish more people liked preachers, but some people like preachers way too much. Some people trust preachers way too much.
      2. Some people fail to understand that at the end of the day preachers are men (and they can be wrong). They can be wrong in the things they say and teach.
    3. Just being “good people.”
      1. If we could go to heaven based on our own goodness, then why in the world did Jesus have to come here to suffer and die on a cross? No matter how good of a person you may think you are, you are still a sinner and you can’t save yourself, Romans 3:23.
      2. If being a “good person” could have ever saved anyone, you would think that it would have saved Cornelius, Acts 10:1-2. And yet, notice what he still had to do, Acts 11:13-14.
    4. All of these things are the wrong standard for receiving the assurance that God wants us to have. Instead of using these faulty standards to determine what spiritual path we may be on, we need to use the right standard. That is the Bible.
      1. The Bible comes from God, 2 Timothy 3:16. It is the only point of contact that we have between heaven to earth. If we are really going to know God and how to please God and how to find the true path to heaven, then we are going to have to open up the Bible and  consider carefully what it has to say.
      2. How can we know we are heaven bound?
    5. By examining whether or not we are keeping God’s commandments.
      1. See 1 John 2:3-5, 28-29; 3:9-10, 24; 5:2-3. Notice how God has commandments that He expects us to keep.
        1. Which commandments is John referring to? Let me first tell you what commandments He is not referring to.
          1. He is not referring to the commandments and the traditions of men. Jesus never approves when we put the commandments or traditions of men on the same level as the commandments of God, Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23; 15:7-9.
          2. He is not referring to the commandments found in the Old Testament law of Moses. Unfortunately, so many people fail to understand that this law was only given to the children of Israel, and then it was only valid up until the time of the cross, John 1:17;          Romans 6:14; 7:6-7; Colossians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Hebrews 8:7-13.
        2. Instead, He is referring to the commandments found in the New Testament (New Covenant) law of Christ. See Matthew 28:18-20; John 12:48; 14:15, 21; 15:14.
      2. What has the Lord commanded us?
        1. We must be taught about Him and ourselves, John 6:44-45; Romans 3:23.
        2. We must believe in Him, John 6:68 8:24;14:6; 20:30-31. The very reason why we have the account of Jesus in the gospels is so we have enough evidence to believe in His identity.
        3. We must repent of sin, Luke 13:3; Acts 2:37-38; 17:30-31. We must turn away from sin – to give up sin and do our best to live lives that are holy before God.
        4. We must be baptized for the remission of our sins, Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:34-39; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Romans 6:3-4.
          1. While many people deny the need for baptism today, the Bible is very clear on the issue. Notice how both Jesus and His apostles taught that if we are going to be saved then we must be baptized.
          2. How will we respond to what the Lord has said about this? If we really want to go to heaven, then we won’t argue and quibble over it. Instead, we will just obey! See Luke 6:46.
        5. We must be faithful to the Lord after baptism. The Bible doesn’t teach the false doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Instead, it teaches that we must be committed and loyal to the Lord after we decide to begin walking with Him, John 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12-14.
          1. Consider the example we have of the early Christians, Acts 2:41-47. Notice how committed they were to the Lord as members of His church. They devoted themselves to studying the doctrine of the apostles, fellowship, prayer, and breaking bread together (a reference to the Lord’s Supper – see 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Acts 20:7).
          2. These disciples were committed to growing and being faithful to Christ, 2 Peter 3:18.
        6. Someone says, “I want to be baptized, but I don’t feel I have yet reached a level of sinless perfection.” This type of thinking misses the whole point of baptism.
          1. Baptism is not for people who haven’t sinned (babies and toddlers). Instead, it is for people who have violated the will of God and need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
          2. In fact, even after you are baptized, you need to understand that you are going to fall short of the glory of God from time to time. When you do, God commands you to confess your sin and repent, 1 John 1:8-10.
        7. There are many other commandments the Lord has given us. The point is when we simply do what the Lord says we can live with confidence in regard to our salvation.
  • By making sure that we love one another.
    1. Specifically, you need to make sure that we love those who are fellow members of God’s family, 1 John 3:13-16, 23; 4:11, 19-21.
    2. Why is this important?
      1. Because God is love, 1 John 4:8-10.
      2. Because it is not reasonable to suggest that you love God whom you haven’t seen, when you don’t love your brother who you see all the time, 1 John 4:19-21.
      3. Because our love for one another is one of the main ways in which we demonstrate to the world that we are truly His disciples, John 13:34-35.
    3. The Bible tells us how we are to exercise the kind of love God wants us to have.
      1. We need to treat others like we want to be treated, Matthew 7:12.
      2. We need to be humble, selfless, and willing to serve one another, Philippians 2:3-5.
      3. We should be patient towards one another and help each other grow in Christ. We should never be jealous of one another or towards any success another has in their life. We should not be quick to assume the worst in one another’s words and actions. We should be kind and willing to spend time with one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
      4. When we know a brother is in sin, we shouldn’t let him continue down that destructive path. Instead, we should be willing to confront him and help him get on the right track, Galatians 6:1.
      5. We should be willing to share what we have with one another, 1 John 3:18.
      6. If we ever have a problem with a brother, we need to be willing to go to him and work that problem out face to face, Matthew 18:15-17.
    4. How we treat one another has a lot to do with whether or not we will go to heaven.

Conclusion:

  1. Keeping God’s commandments and loving one another are the keys to knowing whether or not we are heaven bound.
  2. Are you heaven bound? If not, then you need to do something about that right now!

Will Those Who Never Hear the Gospel Be Lost?

In the comments below my post yesterday of a sermon entitled “Answering Common Challenges”, I received the following question:

“I heard one yesterday I’ve been pondering. The man said that unless you believe in God you will be lost. So what about all those people who have never had the opportunity? I have him some answers but I’d be interested to hear what you think.”

I’ve run into this one before too.  The argument goes like this.  If we claim that only those who believe in Jesus Christ can be saved from their sins, we are implicitly condemning everyone who never has heard the gospel (say, for instance, a tribesman in the remotest Amazon basin).

If that’s the case, then God is being unfair.  After all, those people never had a chance.  They are unavoidably lost.  As a result, we should conclude that people who have never heard the gospel are somehow saved, perhaps by being good people.  Continue reading

The Bringer of Grace and Peace

Most people are familiar with the birth story of Jesus. They might be confused about how many wise men came to Jesus, where Jesus was when they came, and even when Jesus was born. But most at least know that He was born of a virgin named Mary. They know that He was born in the city of David (Bethlehem). They know that the angels of God celebrated after His birth was announced to shepherds in the field (Luke 2:8-18).

Personally, I am glad that many are aware of the amazing events surrounding the birth of our Lord. But there is one big thing that still bothers me. It is not the birth story of our Lord, but the way it is sometimes presented. Unfortunately, through various media outlets, the birth story of Jesus is often presented as though it was the end of something, rather than the beginning. Have you ever seen on television (maybe on the Hallmark channel) as the manger scene reaches a conclusion Silent Night softly plays in the background, then we cut to a commercial and you see “Next up: A Charlie Brown Christmas”? While it is true that Jesus was born and placed in a manger that is not the end of the story! This child was born with a specific purpose and mission from God. Luke 2:14 is one verse of many that declares the mission of our Lord.

While appearing to shepherds in the field the angels of God announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This particular verse is often abused by religious teachers. So often it is interpreted that we ought to be at peace with one another and have goodwill towards others during the holiday season and year round. While it is indeed good that we do that, unfortunately that interpretation really misses the whole point of the verse. Kept in its context this verse is really talking about peace and goodwill from God to men on earth. It is a verse about the gospel and what it brings to mankind. It is a verse about Jesus and what He offers. The prophets foretold that Jesus would bring peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The gospel we preach today is a message of peace and glad tidings (Romans 10:15). It is a message that not only reveals the miraculous birth of the Savior, but it also speaks of His love, miracles, suffering, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to heaven to sit at the right hand of God (Acts 2:22-36). The gospel reveals the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; Titus 2:11-14). The word grace means “unmerited favor.” It is an undeserved gift. Despite our rebellion against Him, God gave us His sinless Son to die on the cross for our sins. Through Jesus, God’s grace is now available to all men. Does the fact that God’s grace is made available to everyone mean that everyone is going to be saved? No (see Matthew 7:13-14)! Only those who obey and submit to God will receive the grace God offers. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace covers all that God has done for us. Faith covers all we must do in response to God’s love. This even includes repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The faith that saves is the faith that obeys (Hebrews 5:8-9)! The fact that we have to meet conditions does not mean we earn God’s grace and peace.

Have you done what God requires to receive the gifts of grace and peace?  You may receive many material things on Christmas morning, but no gift can ever compare to the gifts God offers you through His Son.

– Shawn Jeffries

A Literal Black Friday

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Did you do any shopping on Black Friday? Most Americans did. Black Friday is often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Millions of people rush to the nearest Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, or Macy’s in order to find the best deals on big screen televisions, tablets, video game consoles, clothing, smart phones, Blue Ray/DVD players, and a host of other items. Each year I try to tell myself I won’t get involved with Black Friday, but the super deals and ability to save hundreds of dollars consistently changes my mind. I am a huge fan of getting more, while paying less!

Where did the term “Black Friday” come from? Many retailers are said to traditionally operate at a financial loss (“in the red”) from January to November. But Black Friday indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or get “in the black.” For a store like Wal-Mart, their net income is positive starting on January 1, and Black Friday can boost their year to date net profit from $14 billion to $19 billion. I always thought the name “Black Friday” was given due to aggressive crowds in many stores. There is just something negative about annual reports of assaults, shootings, and throngs of people trampling on other shoppers in an attempt to get the best deal on the product they want before it runs out.

Our culture is obsessed with the Friday after Thanksgiving. But did you know there is a “Black Friday” in the Bible? Don’t misunderstand. There wasn’t a day when hundreds of Jews went to a Macy’s or Wal-Mart to purchase expensive products for half the price. But there was a Friday in which the land of Judea was literally dark for hours because God’s plan to save us from our sins was at work.

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

                                                                                                            – Matthew 27:41-46

Although the death of the perfect and sinless Son of God provided a literal dark time on the face of the earth, spiritually men had never seen anything brighter. Because of sin, every person of an accountable age deserves to be lost in hell forever (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But through the death of Jesus the penalty for our sins was paid (Romans 5:6-9). Now we can be reconciled to God and be saved. This is only made possible because 2,000 years ago Deity stepped out of heaven, walked on this earth, lived a perfect life, and gave Himself as a sin sacrifice.

What a paradox we find at the cross! What happened at the cross was the darkest moment in human history (a literal black Friday). And yet, mankind has never seen a brighter moment. While men are killing the Son of God He was giving the most wonderful gift ever given to man – the gift of salvation. While there is nothing wrong with shopping on the day our culture calls “Black Friday,” never forget to thank God for the events that took place on that Friday 2,000 years ago.

– Shawn Jeffries

 

Drawn To Jesus

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Recently I’ve been learning about the religious phenomenon of “Muslim-Background Believers” (MBB). That is, people who live in predominately Muslim lands, or even grew up in Muslim households, are leaving the religion of their youth for the gospel message.  Their conversion stories are gripping, inspiring, and abundant.

Some MBB remain in their homelands and face terrible persecution at the hands of their families, their neighbors, and their governments where apostasy is a capital crime (I Am N, Voice of the Martyrs, 2016). Many must flee their nation to preserve their lives (Islam and Terrorism, Mark A. Gabriel, 2015). I’ve benefited greatly from a number of books written by MBB that share an insider’s perspective on Islam, contrasting it with the Christian Faith (Unveiling Islam, Caner & Caner, 2009; Understand My Muslim People, Abraham Sarker, 2004). These books and many more encourage Christians to understand Muslim backgrounds, offer answers to Islam’s objections to Christianity, and explore ways to help other Muslims leave Islam (Answering Islam, Geisler & Saleeb, 2003; Beyond Opinion, Ravi Zacharias, 2010).

What is drawing Muslims out of Islam? Why are they willing to risk such great personal cost? I’m learning that it’s the same compelling evidence and message that draws all people to Jesus. Listen to some of the reasons:

 

“These converts evidently found something in Christianity that they felt was lacking in Islam. Many are attracted to the figure of Jesus, others find the Christian dogma of forgiveness of sins comforting, and still others are impressed by the charitable behavior of individual Christians around them. But if there is a common thread running through these conversion testimonies, it is that Christianity preaches the love of Christ and God, whereas Islam is forever threatening hellfire for disobeying, and obsessively holds up the wrath of God in front of the believer. In other words, the two religions have two totally different conceptions of God: In the former, God is near, loving, and protective, God the Father, in the latter, God is a remote, angry, tyrannical figure to be obeyed blindly.” – Ibn Warraq, Leaving Islam, p.92

“Muslims are drawn to the love of Christ, and this is a big responsibility as well as a blessing. When I read the New Testament, what amazed and astounded me the most was the teaching on love, not only toward one’s kin and kindred, but even toward one’s enemies. It was so different from my training in Islam that it actually made me angry that someone could suggest something so obviously impossible. But as I continued reading, the reality of it entered my heart and changed my life.” – Sam Soloman, Beyond Opinion, p.78

“After one year of reading the Bible in an honest way, I understand now what happened to me. I found my way to God, the real God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope now for all the people I love, my family, my friends, and everyone else to change also and begin to read the Bible in an honest way. I am sure that God will help them find their way.” – Desert Son, a Saudi Arabian Muslim convert to Christianity, Leaving Islam, p.95

“Christianity is life, Islam is death” – an Algerian Muslim convert to Christianity, El Youm (an Algerian Arabic daily, December, 2000)

 

People, any people, can be drawn to Jesus by the Word of God. The Father draws people to Jesus by the teaching of Scripture (John 6:44-45). So when people honestly read the Bible they discover the gospel of Jesus. Jesus’ gospel is the true message of light (John 8:12), life (John 11:25), and love (John 15:10-15)! It is the Word of Truth (1 Peter 1:22-25) and the Power to Salvation (Romans 1:16). Nothing compares to the New Testament because the gospel is true and world religions are false. Faith is founded on the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

People have all sorts of backgrounds – religious and irreligious. People have all sorts of baggage – sin and guilt. And all people have the same appointment to keep – death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Will you have the Savior on that day?

Are you drawn to Jesus?

Will you help others learn about Him from the Bible?

 

By Andrew Roberts

The Answer For Hatred

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On this MLK Day it is good to pause and reflect upon the incredible life’s work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He modeled peaceful protest and cast a vision for genuine racial equality in a nation that had been framed with the words, “all men are created equal.” Dr. King died for this cause nearly 48 years ago. Sadly, recent events demonstrate that racial strife still simmers in the hearts of some Americans with occasional eruptions of violence and lawlessness in various places around the country.

What can change the hearts of men and transform aliens and enemies into brothers and sisters? The gospel of Jesus Christ can do it. That’s what every person needs. Racism and hatred is sinful. Murder, theft, and revenge are sinful. Injustice and crime demand requital. But as men seek to “even the score,” only greater inequities are achieved. Human beings are not a perfectly Just, Omniscient, and Holy “scorekeeper” to make everything right. Only God can do that. God promises perfect Justice and Righteous Judgment in the end (Acts 17: 30-31; Romans 12:19-21; Revelation 20:11-15). Yet, for today, His Word reveals grace and forgiveness that truly makes peace and allows for healing through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The answer for hatred is a changed heart and that’s something the gospel achieves. But it means we look at ourselves and our problems from a different perspective – from God’s perspective found in the Bible.

First, God created all mankind. Human life is sacred and human beings share a fundamental dignity because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28; 9:5-7). We all have common ancestors in Noah, as well as Adam and Eve. The apostle Paul preached concerning the true God, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…so that they should seek the Lord…” (Acts 17:26-27). No matter the nation, tribe, or language someone speaks, we are the brotherhood of humanity. And regardless if another person is aware of this Bible truth, because I am aware of it, I have the responsibility of treating that person accordingly.

Second, all have sinned. Clearly people do not treat each other like we are all one big human family. Hate, theft, murder, war, deception, evil speech, and evil surmising too often characterize our human interactions. All such evil proceeds from a defiled heart (Matthew 15:18-19). It is sinful and evidences the reality of sin – the Bible diagnosis for the wickedness we do against God and our fellow man. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Our ancestor Adam sinned by transgressing God’s rule and each of us since has transgressed the teachings of God. Cain murdered his brother Abel and such sins of hatred and violence have separated brothers from each other and from God throughout the ages.

Third, the gospel is for all. But God devised a plan wherein peace could be achieved between Him and His creation as well as brotherhood fashioned between sinners. According to Ephesians 2:11-18, God created one body, His church, the body of redeemed sinners in Jesus Christ. Brotherhood is restored there. Sins are forgiven in Jesus, by the sacrifice He made to pay for them. Sinners are reconciled to God and restored in forgiveness and salvation toward one another. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ teaches Christians (members of that body) how to treat others – with the grace and forgiveness that we have found in Him (Matthew 6:14-15). The gospel changes our mind and heart (Romans 1:16; 12:1-2). We see ourselves and the world around us differently. And we are taught to treat others differently, to seek their welfare and the salvation of their soul above all else (Philippians 2:1-11).

The evil of hatred is ancient. The answer to hatred is timeless: the gospel. But one virtue of MLK Day is to remind us how timely the gospel is to answer hatred, as well as all our sins and iniquities.

By Andrew Roberts